Sam Explains

Robot Jox

To kick-off the new year Sam brings the 1990 Stuart Gordon mech fighting film Robot Jox! Welcome to the distant future, post World War III, where war has been outlawed, somehow. Instead, the world has decided the more sensible way to settle international disputes is via single combat in mechs. While undoubtedly cool as heck, Sam has several issues with the concept on a practical level. The capitalist Market is locked in a perpetual battle with the communist Confederation. The latest battle is for control of Alaska, but when an errant rocket fist leads to the accidental death of hundreds of spectators (why are there spectators?!), Achilles, the hero of the Market, hangs up his robot gloves and retires. This makes room for the genetically engineered super soldiers to step-up to the fight, but there’s only one problem: Achilles has the hots for one of them by the name of Athena. This leads to the most pressing question about this movie: Is it clever satire, or just another sexist 80’s flick? We may not have an answer to that, but we do know this movie has kick-butt robot fights, so that’s worth something for sure. So join us for some good ol’ fashioned, Cold War 80’s action!

Christmas Bounty

Sam kicks-off this year’s Winter Bizarre with 2013 ABC Family/WWE made for TV movie Christmas Bounty. Tory Bell is an average private elementary school teacher living in Manhattan and dating a handsome, wealthy man named James. All this changes when she gets a mysterious phone call from a gangster threatening her for putting him in jail years ago. So Tory bails on her boyfriend to return to New Jersey to seek the help of her family, all of whom are bounty hunters, to bring this gangster back to justice. This includes working with her ex-bounty hunter partner and former boyfriend Mikey Muscles (a.k.a. Beefcake). Somehow, this family of professional bounty hunters cook up the dumbest plan, which involves finding someone named Big Donna at a mall and putting a brick-sized GPS tracker in her purse. Against all reason, this works and they find the gangster in the only location this movie seems to have paid for: A dingy warehouse. Through a series of circumstance too contrived to relate, James shows up in this warehouse, and Tory scrambles to hide her bounty hunter past from him, for some reason. Eventually, after a shootout at a Christmas tree lot (yes, really) James is kidnapped and Tory must risk crashing a mob wedding to save him. Also, this whole time Mikey Muscles has been pursing Tory, never having gotten over her, even though she’s dating what is possibly the best man in the world. It’s no spoiler to say Tory returns to her small-town roots and boyfriend, though what is a surprise is that she does this in just the worst way imaginable. James, we’re sorry, you’re a prince and you deserve better.

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Cinderella III: A Twist in Time

Fresh off of Spook Retorts, Sam pivots from the scary straight to the Disney with the direct-to-video animated movie Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. Most people know the classic fairy tale, and some even know the Disney version, but this threequel boldly asks “Hey, what if we took this simple, well-known morality tale and made it totally bananas with time travel?” Starting one year after the events of the original Disney movie, Cinderella and her nameless husband are enjoying their bliss, while the wicked stepmother and stepsisters are still living pretty much as they always have in their old mansion, only down one maid in the form of Cinderella. This is, somehow, intolerable to them. While celebrating their anniversary the Fairy Godmother reveals herself to be a wholly irresponsible possessor of magic by losing her magic wand, the apparent source of all her power, to Anastasia. The wicked stepmother seizes this opportunity to reverse time (how does she know how to do that?!) to the point just before Cinderella was to try on the glass slipper. Using further magical shenanigans, the wicked stepmother engineers it so that Anastasia is declared the owner of the slipper and is to marry Prince No-Name. Clearly distraught, Cinderella sets off to the castle to correct the record with Prince Face-Blindness. This goes about as well as you’d expect for a prince that identifies the supposed love of his life via shoe size. So now Cinderella must fight against her stepmother to set things right while the stepmother, despite having the wand, decides using magic is just too easy and largely ignores the tremendous power she possesses. While that’s all going on, Danielle and Sam are really more concerned for Anastasia, who seems the be the real tragic hero of this story. Also, the ending of this movie is so weird as to leave Danielle totally befuddled.

Wolves

In the penultimate Spook Retorts episode of this year, Sam brings the fanged action with the 2014 movie Wolves. Cayden is your average teen living an idyllic high school life. He’s quarterback of the football team, has a great girlfriend, and rad parents. Unfortunately, after having some nightmares, he finds himself turning into a werewolf and attacking his girlfriend before blacking out and apparently murdering his parents. Now on the lam, Cayden seeks answers as to his wolfy origins. Cayden is led to the very subtly named town of Lupine Ridge, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s just chock-full of werewolves. It should be pointed out that these are less werewolves and more wolf-transformers as they seem the be able to change at will, and none of the werewolf lore applies to them, much to the consternation of Danielle. Anyway, Jason Momoa plays the also subtly named Connor Slaughter, who’s been terrorizing and dominating the town for years, and takes an instant dislike to Cayden. But Cayden can’t leave yet because there’s a pretty werewolf girl with the extremely subtle name of Angel whom he just can’t stop thinking about. Anyway, when another wolf, Carter, tries to warn Cayden to leave, Connor has Carter killed and eaten for revealing too much to Cayden. At this point there are so many C-names in this movie neither Danielle nor Sam can keep them all straight. All that is before we even get to the twisted family tree that relates all these people and seems to defy comprehension. Rarely has a move had so many werewolves in it, and yet has so much non-werewolf relationship drama. So stick around to hear about Cayden’s true origins, and allusions to much more interesting sounding , but sadly never seen, imperialist werewolves. Oh, and also improvised manure mines, because there’s a little Home Alone in every werewolf, apparently.

The Monster Squad

It’s time once again for Spook Retorts! Sam kicks off this year with the 1987 ensemble monster movie The Monster Squad. We start in Transylvania where Abraham Van Helsing is attempting to banish Dracula and his menagerie of armadillos using a glowing amulet and a teen girl. Van Helsing fails spectacularly, for reasons that are entirely opaque, and Dracula decides to lay low for one hundred years. That’s just enough time for a group of snarky and unfortunately homophobic kids to form a monster club in small town America. These kids are somehow very selective for membership in their monster club, even though it seems to require only the barest minimum of basic monster knowledge to join. One of the kids comes into possession of Van Helsing’s journal which immediately makes them a target for Dracula, who is assembling a coterie of monster, which is, bafflingly, not the titular monster squad. After encountering the mummy, hearing about a werewolf, and befriending Frankenstein’s monster, the children decide to form the Monster Squad to take on Dracula using the instructions in Van Helsing’s journal and, worryingly, a fair bit of sexual blackmail. So join Sam and Danielle the premiere of this year’s Spook Retorts that will having you rooting for the monsters to defeat the real evil: Human children.

Bury Me Deep

It’s Sam’s turn in the Great Switcheroo to share the 1991 Christopher Pike book Bury Me Deep. Jean is your average horned-up teenage girl who was written by an author who’s definitely human and totally understands how human girls work. Jean is excited for a trip to Hawaii with her friends, but finds herself delayed a few days for reasons too stupid to be real. Finally on the plane to Hawaii, the boy, Mike, in the seat next to Jean dies violently, leaving Jean shaken. But there’s no time for trauma when there are cute boys giving scuba diving lessons at the hotel, so Jean puts aside her experience and tires to enjoy the time with her friend Mandy and also Michelle, the random girl who just invited herself along on the vacation and now spends all her time locked in their shared hotel suite bedroom having sex with Dave, the older of the two diving instructors. Jean starts having spooky dreams about Mike, and is drawn to a particular underwater cave off the Island of Lanai. When Jean recklessly dives to the cave alone she finds a human skull and promptly freaks out. Neither of the cute instructors, Dave or Johnny, believe she saw the skull, and upon investigation Dave can’t find it in the cave. Is jean falling apart from her traumatic experience? Are Dave and Johnny more than simply cute dive instructors, and what happened to their missing partner Ringo (yes, Ringo)? What does any of this have to do with Mike? Will Mandy ever be treated with respect in this book? Help Sam solve this mystery (spoiler, it’s not that mysterious) in the conclusion of our first Great Switcheroo!

Knowing

This week Sam brings along Danielle on a trip through the Nic Cageiverse in the 2009 film Knowing. In 1959 a little girl scrawls a bunch of mystery numbers on a paper placed in a time capsule. This note is acquired by John (Nicholas Cage) fifty years later in the undetermined time period of “present day”, who, as a depressed astrophysicist, immediately cracks the code. The paper details the dates and locations of every massive disaster (supposedly) in the last fifty years. The real problem is that there are three disasters that are scheduled for the future in the next few days. John sets out to stop the disasters and utterly fails to prevent the first two. He then decides to learn more about the writer of the note by spending some time stalking a woman and her young daughter; a plan that works about as well as you’d expect. Suddenly there’s an apocalypse coming and the government knows but doesn’t seem to care and John can only think about how to save his son, who has started hearing mysterious whispers and seeing strange men following them. None of this really matters as the ending is wild and seems to render the whole movie pointless. However, Sam did manage to find a description for the movie that seems to have come from a parallel universe, and that really excites Danielle.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear

This week Sam takes Danielle on an adventure through the 2004 made for TV movie The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. If you take Indiana Jones, mash it up with Warehouse 13, add Noah Wyle and a touch of historical mysticism, you’ll get something akin to The Librarian. Flynn is a perpetual student with an unbelievable 22 academic degrees, a fact Sam refuses to accept. When he’s forced out of school by his teacher, for some reason, he struggles to find purpose until a magic letter invites him to a job interview at a library. At the interview, Flynn spouts some nonsense and then a magical Bob Newhart as Judson appears from a wall to tell him he’s hired. Bob shows Flynn around the library, which is really more a heavily guarded museum of mystical artifacts, and also the Mona Lisa for some reason. This “secure” facility is immediately broken into by a librarian splinter group—which must be the least intimidating kind of splinter group—and a piece of a powerful spear artifact is stolen. Instead of actually trying to recover the stolen spear piece, Flynn is instead sent to track down the two other spear pieces which, until now, have been safely hidden in other locations because the spear was too powerfully dangerous to be kept in one piece. Predictably, things don’t go smoothly as Flynn and his sexy bodyguard Nicole go to the Amazon to recover the spear, but Sam is more upset that they even launched this unnecessary quest to begin with. Things only get more ridiculous as stupid evil plans collide with stupid good plans and no one seems to do any actual librarian work. All we can say is: Snake, Snake! Snake, Snake!

Warriors of Virtue

This week Sam takes Danielle on a mystical adventure through the 1997 movie Warriors of Virtue. Ryan Jeffers is an ordinary teenage boy who dreams of playing football and impressing girls. He also reads comics in his bathroom while home alone and hangs around at a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen with the chef who cooks with Kung Fu. This chef gives Ryan a mysterious scroll (which is actually a book) of Tao and some wise words of advice, then Ryan heads off to meet up with the cool kids who invited him out for an initiation that night. Ryan and the cool teens break into a building whose purpose is unclear, but there is a strange, open whirlpool in one room which Danielle is super excited about. Ryan falls into this whirlpool and is transported to the magical world of Tao which is under threat from the evil Komodo who wants to drain all the Life Springs of their energy sustaining element Zubrium so he can use it to stay young and powerful while the rest of the people in Tao die. Sam doesn’t get it either, but is all about the word Zubrium and Angus Macfadyen’s amazing acting choices as Komodo. Ryan eventually meets up with the titular Warriors of Virtues who are, in fact, Kung Fu Kangaroos and nothing has delighted Danielle or Sam more than that simple phrase. However, one of the five warriors has left to be a hermit in a swamp after failing to uphold the vow of never killing anyone. Now it’s up to Ryan to reunite the Warriors, mostly by berating them, and to try and find a way home all while learning absolutely no Kung Fu. You can also join Danielle’s quest to have a watch party where Sam re-dubs all the sound effects in the movie; he will not do a good job.

The Starlight Barking – Part 2

This week Sam shares the conclusion of the supremely weird 1967 Dodie Smith book The Starlight Barking. Pongo and his brood are still wrestling with what’s going on while the rest of the world, aside from dogs, sleeps. Finally deciding Cruella de Vil might be involved, the dogs, a cat, and Tommy sneak into her house, some with the intent of just straight-up murdering her. Although the air is filled with pepper, Cruella is asleep and the dogs are relieved that’s she not involved, and, much to Sam’s consternation, that’s the last we’ll hear of her during the story. Back at Downing Street, a mysterious light appears on the TV and commands all the dogs in England to appear in Trafalgar Square at midnight to receive an explanation for all the strange goings on. When asked questions, the voice provides answers that are less than useless before rushing off. At midnight, the dogs gathered in the Square experience euphoria and then utter terror as a bright light descends into the square. It’s the Lord of Sirius the dog star come to offer all the dogs a permanent home on Sirius to live forever in total bliss. The star lord’s reasons for making this offer are crazy, as is the stipulation that it will be an all-or-nothing deal so all dogs are to go or none at all. For some reason, the dogs elect Pongo to make the decision on their behalf. Despite all the supposedly high stakes, Danielle and Sam are really much more interested in the pressing question: What the heck happened to the missing Roly Poly?